Jennie Breeden is the genius behind the web comic, The Devil’s Panties. She is a native of Atlanta, and can often be found after-hours roaming Dragon*Con with a leaf blower, hunting unsuspecting kilt-wearers.
Daily Dragon (DD): Welcome to Dragon*Con. What was the inspiration for The Devil’s Panties?
Jennie Breeden (JB): Um, God, what was the beginning of it—? I started putting it up online in 2001, just to have a way to keep drawing every single day, to have an incentive to do it every day. Having people read it was definitely helpful. “If I don’t post today, there will definitely be repercussions.” I was drawing the cartoons years before that. When I started going to the Savannah College of Art Design, majoring in comic books, things would happen in the dorms. People would laugh about it, and I’d draw a cartoon about it. Some people kept a journal; I kept sketch book. I think it was the summer of 2001. I was interning in Atlanta and working at a pizza place, because the internship didn’t pay anything, and I still had to pay rent on this closet I was living in—quite literally, it was a storage closet that I had a cot set up in. I had a bunch of cartoons and everyone had been talking about my putting them up online. One of my roommates said he’d put them up online, and that I’d have to just think up a title for it. I had a huge list of what titles to use. I wanted to call it The Reality’s Victim, but a friend of mine, DJ, who is in the comic strip, has lists of names for everything. She had said that if she ever started a band, she was going to call it…she was going to call it The Devil’s Panties . However, she doesn’t play an instrument, so she said I could use it. I didn’t know where it came from, and when I’d go down the list and ask people what they thought I should call the comic strip, whenever I got to that title, everyone would always stop and go “I don’t know what that is, but I want to find out!” so I called it that. About three years after that, some girls came up to me at a convention and said “Oh yeah! The Devil’s Panties! We love that movie!” and I went “What? What are you talking about?” They said “Well, you know … That Sandra Bullock movie. You know, Miss Congeniality.” I was like “What?” I haven’t ever seen this movie before and apparently, there’s a scene where this girl says “I wanted to buy the red undies, but my mom wouldn’t let me. She said they were Satan’s panties.” I have no idea, but that’s the story. I was so aghast my pseudo-feminist comic strip is named after a Sandra Bullock movie.
DD: What are the inspirations for your strips?
JB: Every day. My phone has a tape recording setting on it. We get onto the elevator, and I’m trying to explain to the people I’m getting onto the elevator with that you have to go down to go up, because if you wait for the elevator to come up, it’s already going to be full. You get on it, even though it’s going down, and my friend’s like “But, but … we’ve gotten on the wrong one!” and I’m like “Oh, that’s ok. We’ll just have a happy time going up and down and up and down on the elevator, riding the elevator up and down.” I don’t remember my exact words, but I said something totally perverted. We sat there for a minute and thought “This is wrong,” so I took a recording of that. I steal everything. Oh, I’m shameless. I don’t have an original thought unto myself. It’s just the way you adapt it or illustrate it. I’ve found there are a lot of stories that make great stories, but would make horrible cartoons, and there are some cartoons that I turn to my boyfriend and I’m like “Hey, um, I’m going to do a cartoon where Jesus said this, and the Devil says that,” and my boyfriend’s like “That doesn’t sound funny at all.” When I draw things, I try to really exaggerate the expressions and try and make the joke be in the artwork and the facial expressions.
DD: What are inspirations for the characters?
JB: They’re all people from life. My friend, DJ—I went to middle school with her—I’d always hang out with her. Once a year now, I have a vacation to go and visit her. She lives in Vermont now. I was at HeroesCon and wandering around and ran into a guy dressed as a pirate, and we started hanging out. He’s always a pirate. I have a lot of friends who are upset. I’ve been friends with them for years, and they’ve never shown up in the comic strip. I think it definitely takes a certain kind of character, you know, that ends up saying certain kinds of things … you know … you’re funny! I steal. I steal all my material from those around me. Somebody says something, everybody laughs, and I write it down. My friend, Nigel, who dresses like a pirate and sells artwork, I sit down with him and I’m like “Ok! Tell me a story!” The latest thing he told me was a story about a convention and he was hitting on a girl, and the girls friends were kinda upset with her for something and her friends said “Well, you know, she’s only 15, right?” and my friend Nigel goes “Oh my god! I can’t be hanging out with you!” and the girl says “Um, there’s a problem?” and he says “Yeah there’s a problem! You’re 15! I can’t talk to you!” She looks at him in the eye and says “well, how about I just slip you a Xanax and grind it like I stole it?” He tells me this story, and I transcribe it to cartoon. I got a lot of people who said “Oh my god, that line is the most funny thing I’ve ever heard.” Well, it was some 15-year-old in Ohio who said it.
DD: Is there any history behind the boot and shoe fetish?
JB: Not really. I remember my first pair of boots was in high school from a Delia’s
catalog. They were knee-high, black with one buckle on the side. I was so happy I got them, I ran up and down the downtown Charlottesville, Virginia, mall with my jeans hike all the way up to my knees, just so I could show off the boots. It looked very stupid, but I was so proud of the boots. I have two older brothers, so I grew up a tomboy. I played with dolls, and I had my Little Mermaid stuff, but I’d play with my Little Mermaid with my brothers G.I. Joes and they had to do a rescue op for the mermaid who was stranded on the desert island or something.
DD: Has anyone claimed credit for your strips?
JB: Well, we’ve seen through the Da Vinci Code
is that no one really cares unless you make a lot of money. As long as I stay poor, no one will care! I did have somebody say “You know, you took a lot of ideas from me, made all this money off the ideas … you owe me royalties from it.” I was like “Great! If you’d like a percentage of the comic strip, then you owe me three hundred dollars!” because I’ve put so much money into this. You don’t really make any money. In September, I quit my day job. I’m going to 20 conventions a year, so I’m not necessarily making very much money on it; I’m just doing a whole lot of it. I’m doing a whole lot of merchandising. I’m working on burning myself out, pretty much, with the conventions. I’m working on doing as many as possible, so when I’m sick and tired of it, I can go “Well, I’ll go to this one and that one.”
DD: What about the kilts?
JB: [evil giggling] I don’t remember. I think it was at a bar somewhere at a convention in a hotel, with all the girls sitting around talking about calendars. Men of Comics calendars that’ll have Andy Lee and David Mack, just them shirtless on a beach somewhere … Duuuude! [pause] Um … Sorry, I got sidetracked … um … Andy Lee … shirtless … Oh, the kilts! Yes. So, we were talking about doing a men-in-kilts calendar, but it was someone else who suggested using a leaf blower to get the kilt up to do a Marilyn Monroe shot. So sure enough, I’d been talking about it and doing cartoons about it long enough that someone finally showed me a leaf blower you can get for $70 from Home Depot. I’d been talking about it long enough that I finally went out and got a leaf blower and did it. Last year was the first time. I was very disappointed in the reactions of the guys when I had the leaf blower on them. They’d just stand there. I was looking for some drama. I only had one guy who hammed it up, and we got him on the cover of the calendar.
DD: Do you do this at any other conventions?
JB: No, only here. Everyone else at all the other conventions says “Oh, hahaha, where’s the leaf blower?” but this is the one convention that has the space and the weirdness factor. I pull out the leaf blower, and I’m not the weirdest thing going on. And there’s enough kilts. This year, I’m seeing about one out of every six or seven, maybe one out of every two guys wearing a kilt. Now, there’re thirty thousand people here, so you’ve got three thousand guys in kilts.
DD: How long have you been coming to Dragon*Con?
JB: Um … it was the internship in Atlanta. That was the first year I came to this con. I think 2001 was the first one. And before we got to the convention center, the girl I was working with turned to me and said, “The boss wants to know what sort of alcohol you want for the convention.” Before we even got the tickets to the convention, people were like doing shots.
DD: Have you enjoyed your celebrity status?
JB: Yes! I haven’t really had a, knock on wood, bad experience. I know it’s going to be inevitable. I’m kinda gauging … I know I’m really going to make it when I run into this stuff. I’ve had a lot of people say “I don’t mean to be a stalker, but I’ve printed out a bunch of stuff, and put it up on my cubicle,” and I’m like “No, no … It’s when you’re printing out the pictures of me getting my mail …” That’s when it gets creepy! With the Internet and conventions, you can hold people at arm’s length. My boyfriend said, “You’re getting a PO box, because I don’t want to find people on our front lawn.” I had one guy who said, “Hey, I’m driving through Atlanta on a road trip. Can I bring you dinner?” and I was like “That’s really nice. We can meet somewhere for coffee, but you can’t come over to my house.” I also think you make your fans, depending on what you’re selling. The humor determines what sort of fans you’re going to have. Mine is sorta autobiographical, so I see a lot of myself in people who like my stuff. What’s really creepy is when I see clones come up, and I see really awesome people come up going “Yeah, we really love your stuff!” and I’m like “Really? Well, you’re so cool!”
DD: What is your favorite The Devil’s Panties cartoon?
JB: That varies. I don’t know what’s funny. The ones I think are funny, nobody else quite does. I thought the monkey ninja pirate was genius, but it didn’t take off quite as much as the pirate ones did. What was a bit more personal was the ones that were more the idea than the words. I’ve got where I was falling and one where I ripped the skin off of my face, and my boyfriend still likes me! They documented the two points where you’re letting more and more barriers down, and not really putting up a show around the person, and finally to rip off that last mask that you wear for people, and they’re still cool with it. We are very different at home than we are in public. Will puts up with a lot! I can be very annoying, and he’s still there!
DD: Are there any future plans for The Devil’s Panties?
JB: I would like to do an animated thing. I have heard you can do storyboards and someone else will cartoon it. That would be awesome. A Flash animation. I would love to have somebody do a Flash movie. I’ve started to do some storyboards, but the only storyboards I could think of that would work visually would be some of the cats sliding on the floor or running into something and acting all hoity-toity. I called up a friend of mine and I was like, “I can’t think of anything for a cartoon, for an animated cartoon,” and she was like, “Well, I can’t think of anything either, but for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t do any more cat cartoons!” #%&! That was the only one I had!
DD: Do you have any favorite charities or causes you’d like to mention?
JB: Yes. I have a couple online, like Save the Boobs for breast cancer, Save the TaTas. There was something about … Pears. The link is on my links page. The pears were great! It had some cute slogan. There’s also a Down’s Syndrome charity that I had up on there for a while that was a group of artists who put together a robot book, and that was for a Down’s Syndrome cause. Oh! Child’s Play! They’re auctioning off the geeks at What The Hell Con—that goes towards Child’s Play, which is a charity giving toys and video games to children’s hospitals.
DD: Jennie, thank you for your time.
JB: Thank you.